A seroepidemiological study on bluetongue virus (BTV) infection in California dairy cattle was conducted to estimate the prevalence and distribution by age and season of BTV group-reactive antibodies and to look for possible associations between the presence of antibodies and cattle age or breed and farm. Between December 1985 and March 1987, a sample of cattle was tested at approximately two-month intervals for BTV group-reactive antibodies using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Data taken during the month of December 1986 were used to evaluate possible associations between a positive antibody test and certain intrinsic (age, breed) and extrinsic (farm) factors. Univariate and multivariate statistical analyses using the χ-square test for associations and multiple logistic regression, respectively, were carried out for possible associations between positive antibody tests to BTV and each factor of interest. The strengths of the associations were determined using estimates of the odds ratio. Of the 3774 serum samples tested, 238 (6.3%) were from calves, 1045 (27.6%) were from heifers and 2492 (66.0%) were from cows. Seroprevalence varied from nil in calves on two occasions to over 90% on several occasions in cows. Cows consistently had higher prevalence rates than heifers or calves across all test dates (p<0.05). The seroprevalence of BTV group-reactive antibodies also showed a seasonal fluctuation, with the highest rates occurring during the warmer months of the year. These highest prevalence rates coincided with heavy activity of the known vector of BTV, Culicoides spp. Breed and farm effects were not statistically significant (p>0.05). With the exception of one farm, all cattle were of the Holstein breed, which reduced confidence in assessing any breed effect in this study. Relative estimates of the sensitivity and specificity of BTV ELISA were 87% and 100% respectively, compared to the standard agar gel immunodiffusion (AGID) test. The observations support previous findings of seasonal distribution of BTV antibodies and suggest an age relationship, whereby older cattle are more likely to be positive to BTV group-reactive antibodies than younger cattle.
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